A Roman Catholic who had filled up the measure of his iniquities as far as he dared went to the priest to confess and obtain absolution. He entered the apartment of the priest and addressed him thus, ‘Holy father, I have sinned.’
The priest bade him kneel before the penitential chair. The penitent was looking about, and saw the priest’s gold watch lying upon the table within his reach; he seized it and put it in his bosom. The priest approached him and requested him to acknowledge the sins for which he wished absolution.
‘Father,’ said the rogue, ‘I have stolen, and what shall I do?’ ‘Restore,’ said the priest, ‘the thing you have stolen to its rightful owner.’ ‘Do you take it,’ said the penitent. ‘No, I shall not,’ said the priest; ‘you must give it to the owner.’ ‘But he has refused to take it.’ ‘If this be the case you may keep it.’
The priest granted him full absolution; and the penitent knelt and kissed his hand, craved his benediction, crossed himself, and departed with a clear conscience, and a very valuable gold watch into the bargain.
— Walter Baxendale, Dictionary of Anecdote, Incident, Illustrative Fact, 1888